NWA-PCUG Newsletter Article, September 2007
CyberDefender Offers Free PC Security Suite
By Ira Wilsker, APCUG Director;
Columnist, The Examiner, Beaumont, TX; Radio & TV Show Host

(click to email author)

http://www.download.com (search for “ZoneAlarm” free version)

California based CyberDefender Corporation is offering PC users its free security suite, CyberDefenderFREE 2.0. While this is a fully functional version of its commercial software which sells for only $12 (a family pack of 5 licenses called the “Early Detection Center” is $40), it may fall into the realm of what some users refer to as “adware”. The reason why this version can be offered for free is that when the program is opened, a banner ad self described as “unobtrusive”, is displayed on the top margin of the window. The commercial versions offer the same features, but lack the banner ad when the program is opened. All versions of CyberDefender will run on Windows Vista, XP, or 2000.

The integrated suites, both the ad supported free version and the paid commercial versions, include six security modules that provide the user with comprehensive protection against major computing threats. The modules, most with the prefix “early”, are earlySPY, earlyVIRUS, earlySPAM, earlySCAM, earlyMONITOR, and safeSEARCH. earlySPY is the spyware detection and removing component of the suites. earlySPY is a full featured anti-spyware product that is frequently updated to provide the latest in protection, and protects from both existing spyware and newly discovered spyware. Newly detected spyware and other threats are reported to the CyberDefender Early Alert Center (http://www.cyberdefender.com/early_alert_center.html), which automatically analyzes the threats and determines the risk levels of the threats presented to it. earlySPY also provides protection from other common threats, such as browser hijackers that attempt to change the home page previously selected by the user. It can also detect other types of spyware and adware that can hijack the computer turning it into a remotely controlled zombie, or into a tool of identity theft. An anti-spyware product installed and frequently updated is now a necessity as many cyber security experts consider spyware in its many forms a greater current threat to our computing safety than the countless viruses in circulation.

Even though spyware is a major threat, CyberDefender provides virus scan protection, and removal services with its earlyVIRUS utility. earlyVIRUS is a full featured antivirus product that offers frequent updates of virus signatures, and provides protection from both known and unknown computer viruses in real-time. Once a virus is detected, earlyVIRUS can quarantine or remove the threat as appropriate, and offers the option to restore deleted threats. earlyVIRUS also integrates with the Early Alert Center to provide protection from the latest virus threats.

Personally, one of the most annoying facets of the internet is the amount of spam email I receive on a regular basis. While many ISPs (Internet Service Providers) provide spam filtering at the email server level, spam can still be a major irritant. CyberDefender’s earlySPAM integrates with Microsoft’s Outlook email program to filter dangerous spam before it makes its way into the Outlook inbox. earlySPAM also offers some protection against the common identity theft method called “Phishing” where internet thieves try and trick us into disclosing personal and sensitive information on spoofed and counterfeit websites.

Phishing is but one of the many common internet threats that try to separate us from our money and other property. CyberDefender offers a suite component earlySCAM, that analyzes every website visited, and alerts the user if the website composes a threat from phishing, hijacking, or some other form of identity theft. If a suspect website is encountered, the user is alerted to the possible threat, and offered the option to continue to the suspect website, or to block access to that particular website. An opportunity is offered to check the site with the Early Alert Center, which may provide additional information about the suspect website.

While CyberDefender does not include its own integrated firewall, it does include some protection from intrusion by working in conjunction with either the Windows XP or Vista integral firewall, or with a third party firewall, such as the free version of ZoneAlarm. earlyMONITOR is the suite component that offers the intrusion detection enhancement function that alerts the user of potential problems that can interfere with web surfing safety. This component, which integrates with Internet Explorer, also offers a password manager to help keep track of passwords, and protect them from hackers, spyware, and other threats. earlyMONITOR also advises the user of any upcoming software updates and patches forthcoming from Microsoft, as well as provides a cookie manager and tracker to control the users’ web cookies. Since the current release of CyberDefender does not include a comprehensive firewall utility, I would recommend that users of this product also install a competent firewall, and not depend on the firewall built into XP and Vista. The most popular free firewall available, with over 40 million downloads, is ZoneAlarm (the “free for personal use” version!) which can be downloaded from http://www.download.com (search for “ZoneAlarm”, and then click on the “license” box and select “free”).

CyberDefender’s sixth component is its safeSEARCH Toolbar. Personally, I am not a fan of toolbars, but this one offers some interesting security features. safeSEARCH integrates with the Early Alert Center and provides real-time protection from phishing websites and hijack attempts. It also determines a safety rating of each website visited, and presents a safety rating for the sites, alerting the user to potential threats and other problems. Also built into the toolbar is access to the secured password manager, which allows the user to review and delete any saved passwords. As with most other toolbars offered by the likes of Yahoo! and Google, the safeSEARCH toolbar includes a pop-up blocker to eliminate those annoying ads that all too often pop-up when viewing web pages. Also in common with other toolbar providers is the ability to do “quick searches” directly from the toolbar.

While not as comprehensive as its higher priced commercial competitors, and lacking some of their protection capabilities and features, CyberDefenderFREE 2.0 offers a viable alternative for those who can not afford the cost of a more comprehensive commercial PC security suite, and are willing to accept some advertising when the program components are opened. Users of this suite should also download and install a good third party firewall (like the free version of ZoneAlarm), to enhance the protection of the computer and its information.

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